Designing Women: The Dressing Room in Eighteenth-Century by Tita Chico

By Tita Chico

Dressing rooms, brought into English household structure throughout the 17th century supplied elite girls with imprecedented deepest house at domestic and in so doing promised them an both remarkable autonomy through supplying an area for self-fashioning, eroticism and contemplation. Tita Chico's Designing ladies argues that the dressing room turns into a strong metaphor in late-seventeenth- and eighteenth-century literature for either innovative and conservative satirists and novelists. those writers use the trope to symbolize competing notions of women?s independence and their objectification indicating that the dressing room occupies a principal (if overlooked) position within the background of non-public lifestyles, postmodern theories of the closet and the improvement of literary kinds.

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Designing Women: The Dressing Room in Eighteenth-Century English Literature and Culture

Dressing rooms, brought into English household structure throughout the 17th century supplied elite ladies with imprecedented deepest house at domestic and in so doing promised them an both remarkable autonomy by way of supplying an area for self-fashioning, eroticism and contemplation. Tita Chico's Designing girls argues that the dressing room turns into a strong metaphor in late-seventeenth- and eighteenth-century literature for either innovative and conservative satirists and novelists.

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18 By midcentury, the Richardsonian domestic novel in effect disengages the dressing room trope from the satiric mode and aligns it with his narrative form in a battle for aesthetic superiority, consolidating the domestic narrative as a vehicle for virtue and education. As I conceptualize it here, the trope of the dressing room does not figure as a dominant metaphor in the dramatic literature of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. ’’ In other words, the space of the Restoration and eighteenth-century stage did not institute a boundary between the players and the spectators to per- 1: WOMEN’S PRIVATE PARTS 31 petuate the illusion that these scenes took place in private.

5 But the tiringroom also instituted a place where select audience members could gather to see the actors up close. 8 These privileged audience members were entitled to peer into the tiring-room. Going backstage was a part of the price of their expensive tickets. The Restoration tiring-room inherited the double function of the Renaissance tiring-room when the playhouses were reopened by Charles II. Actors and actresses used the tiring-room to prepare for the stage and it was typically open to certain privileged members of the public.

89 This turn from feminism to queer theory depends upon the refiguration of patriarchy into heterosexism, accompanied by the redefinition of misogyny as homophobia. While Sedgwick’s contributions to the development of queer theory are significant, critics have noted this glaring absence of women, specifically lesbians, from her work. ’’90 In the introduction to her earlier Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, Sedgwick acknowledges that ‘‘the isolation, not to mention the absolute subordination, of women, in the structural paradigm on which this study is based .

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